03/10/2008, 00.00
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Greater commitment to Vietnamese street children needed

Data indicate that the number of children living on the streets has dropped but the number of migrant children is up. Often the latter have no birth certificate. The various institutions involved need to be co-ordinated but the authorities refuse.

Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) – In Vietnam, according to data by the Street Educators’ Club, the number of street children has dropped from 21,000 in 2003 to 8,000 in 2007. In particular, the number went from 1,507 to 113 in Hanoi and from 8,507 to 794 in Ho Chi Minh City. By contrast, the number of migrant children is up. And street children are by and large migrants as well.

Ms Hang, a social worker involved with street children in the Thu Duc district, told AsiaNews that “now migrant children are also street children. They come to industrial areas to earn money. Parents take advantage of their children’s labour to have money for their living. So we need to raise awareness among adults about rights of children. The government needs to implement the accords reached at the international conference on the rights of children that it signed in 1999. Many street children do not have birth certificates; this means that when they grow up they will not have an identity card so they cannot work for any government company or go to the hospital.”

Mr. Thuong, another social worker with experience in the field, shared his experience. He said that “to help the unlucky children we need to base our interventions on the international conference on children rights and Viet Nam’s own law for the protection and care of children. Warm shelters and drop-in centres care and work with street children well, but we have no voice in saying what the rights of children are. Since they have no personal papers, they cannot go to universities. When they will work their salary will be very low because employers will exploit their labour to reduce production costs. And children at the age of 14, 15 or 16 work without labour protection”.

For Mr Son, another expert in street children, there is a clear need to co-ordinate the action of those who operate in the sector. “There are almost 400 social organisations, international NGOs raising some 15,000 children living in especially difficult circumstances. However, there are still street children and migrant children who are at high risk. They are easy to be pushed around or get involved in scraps with the law, sexual abuse, violence or getting HIV/AIDS on the street. Still local authorities do not allow these social organisations to build up networks so that they can share their experiences with one another, providing information on the cases that will enable them to intervene on time for children’s sake. But when involved in advocacy social workers are able to raise awareness among parents and local authorities about their duties towards children.”

For this reason, in order to “implement the laws local authorities should have practical social policies for social workers and recognise that social workers’ jobs are professional,” he added.

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